London Marathon 2018
by Mary Keily
I headed over to London Saturday morning with my husband and daughter, blown away by all the support from the club, friends, family and pretty much everyone I know. There was a constant stream of messages and lovely facebook posts. My family asked if there was any chance if I could take my excitement level down from one similar to a child going to Disneyland who had eaten too many blue smarties. (the answer was no: I really couldn’t). Straight to the expo to collect my number and catch a quick photo with Noelle, we are at different starts the next day so might not see each other. Trying not to stay to long at the expo and tire myself out so get my number and timing chip and give in to the temptation to buy some of the VLM merchandise. Lot of talk about the heat, they are telling everyone to take a pacing band for a target time at least a half hour slower than originally planned.
Back to the hotel, check in and get some lunch (eating, eating, eating!!) and buy more bottles of water to keep hydrating. Have a lovely swim in the pool with my daughter and a little nap and then head out for some carb loading. There’s another email from the organisers about the heat. They are bringing in extra water and putting more showers on the course. They are also changing all the advice, instead of don’t take water at every station, and don’t tip water over your head, the new advice is “drink, douse, drain, drop”. So have a drink, throw it over you, finish it and throw it away. They also recommend taking water at every station (they will be at every mile from 3 to 25). Pretty nervous and worried now, but head out and find an Italian restaurant and make myself eat the pasta, nerves or no nerves! Head back to the hotel and get everything ready to the last detail; pin my number on my singlet, thread the timing chip onto my runners, pack my bag. (got my name on my Ratoath AC singlet last week, so hopefully people will cheer for me).
Get to bed and actually manage to sleep, until 4am that is when I wake filled with adrenaline. Get up when both alarms I have set go off at 6am and get ready, head down to breakfast but really too wound up so I take bananas to eat at the start area. I’m getting the bus from the hotel to the start so I meet a few people. Get chatting to a lovely lady who is running in aid of guide dogs, I have to leave her when we get off the bus as we are at different starts. She gives me a hug and thanks me for all the advice, I tell her it’s only the same stuff I am telling myself! It’s very very well organised at the start area and it’s all so cheerful and they are really interested in everyone and excited for them. They don’t just give you Lucozade or take your bag, they all chat too, wanting to know if you’ve done one before, telling you that you are great. They use my name a lot when they see it on the singlet. The time passes quickly when we are in the open area, sitting on the grass. Everyone’s worried about the heat, but nothing for it but to get on with it now. We wait in the pens for about an hour, not great in the heat.
And we are off, they forecast 23/24 degrees but straight away its hotter than that because of the heat reflecting from the road, and all the people. It feels like at least 30 degrees. It’s an oven. A furnace. A sauna. I head off at my planned pace, holding it down to that pace, not getting carried away with the excitement or any downhills. There’s crowds cheering from the stand and the roads are thronged with cheering spectators. They are using all the names they see on tee shirts and singlets to cheer us on. I hold my pace for the first 6 miles or so, but I’m not convinced. It feels ok but not quite easy enough, I want to feel like I’m running with the handbrake on, and I don’t really. It’s only going to get harder in the heat. So I make the difficult decision to take the pace down and I do feel disappointed. I fight a mental battle with myself for the next few miles. I reassure myself that that I’m always stronger at the end, and the last part always goes faster. We pass the first of the sights I have been looking forward to, the Cutty Sark and there’s a surge in the atmosphere. Music and cheering. There’s so much music on the course, both organised and impromptu : bands, singers, even bagpipes!
So I play games in my head to keep going: “3 more miles and I’ll be at 9 miles, then 10 miles, sure that’s what I did last week during the taper, I’ll see my family at mile 11. Start taking gels, it’s the last thing I feel like but I know I will run out of fuel otherwise. I give it loads with the “drink, douse, drain, drop”. Throwing the water over my head helps a lot. My arms and legs feel very hot so I throw water on them too, and manage to get some on my face. Good! Also manage to get the zero tablets out of pocket, get the cap off the water bottle while holding tablet in my teeth and add it to make my electrolyte drink. This is not an elegant process the first time I do it but I become a pro at it by the end. Meanwhile on the sidelines, everyone is having a great time, partying and drinking beer in the sun (and cheering us of course). Not much chat among the runners except to bemoan the pace they were doing a few miles ago. Try the showers, they help a bit too.
Mile 11 I see my husband and daughter, and rush over, they ask if I’m ok and I say I’m dying in the heat but ok. They say I’m doing great and give me my drink. This is reassuringly normal so on I go. We get to Tower Bridge, people stopping to take selfies. I keep going but make sure to look around and enjoy the moment. This gives me a big boost. Get to the halfway point and I’ve settled down a lot, getting used to how tough it is. We pass the runners going the other way. Luckily I forget they are on mile 22 and fool myself that they are only a few miles ahead. The crowd are more serious now, the cheer is so intense at one point around mile 14.5 that I nearly cry. It gets messy at various stages after this. Three or four times I think the race has stopped ahead but it’s just that a lot of people have started walking, it’s as if they decided together. Weirdly this has the opposite effect on me and makes me want to keep running. You need to keep your wits about you as you never know when someone will just stop, or walk or dart off some other direction. Anytime anyone sees anything they think will help, (water, shower, Lucozade, gel, family member) they have to have it straight away and just dash over to it.
Mile 18, hope I don’t hit the wall, I didn’t last time. Decide I’m not just not going to and that’s it, I laugh at the wall! I get into my head that my family will be at mile 20 and I think I’ve missed them, but they are at mile 22 (as planned!). I dash over to give them a hug. People around them are beaming, think they nearly hug me too. It’s going to be ok. Officials on the sidelines encouraging us, keep going, just get to the end. You are great. People dropping off at the sides, some getting medical attention, some hanging over the barriers talking to their friends and families deciding whether to continue. The support now is serious, intense, focused. The crowd are trying to get us to keep running. Go on Mary, keep going girl, you’ve got this, you're fantastic. Go Mary so. Shouts from people either side. People calling after me too when they see my name on the back of my singlet. Mile 23, remember to look at the sights. 3 miles is just a lap of the village. I’m picturing the finish line, the medal, the night out to celebrate back in Ratoath. Mile 24, I reach for my endurance and it’s there, like an old friend. Pace goes up, this will be my fastest mile. But it won’t last till the end, it’s too warm, not hydrated enough despite my best efforts so I ease it down. Notice the London Eye, great nearly there!
Mile 25, I can do one more, 800m, that would only be 2 laps of the track, 400m one lap of the track. Nearly there, really nearly there. There’s the stand, crowds roaring. I’ve imagined running down the Mall so many times. I remember to keep running over the finish line, then I remember to stop. Almost not believing, I did it!! The relief is overwhelming. Everyone is telling us how great we are, my medal is put on me, I’m very tearful. I sit down and grab my phone, my husband texts I’m a hero they are coming to meet me. My sister : she was worried, I’m in? I’m ok? Yes! Ah and there’s everyone from the club, they have been shouting at a dot on the screen, following me on the app, willing me on, they are proud of me, don’t know how I did it. I tell them I don’t know either and I’m crying.
I remember to get my goody bag and my gear bag. They call the runners numbers to each other as I walk down so they have my bag when I get there, no waiting. And now the sun goes in and the temperature drops. Seriously!!! Wrap my foil blanket around me and start to shiver from reaction, and I’m cold, soaked to the skin from all that water. I find the changing tents, (another fabulous idea). Feel a lot better in dry clothes and my finishers tee shirt. I find my husband and daughter they are so proud. My daughter takes my photo and I’m grinning ear to ear. We head for a drink with a friend who came in to meet us. I have a beer, don’t want to see any more water (or gels or zeros) ever. Tastes fantastic!
It's fabulous going around London wearing my medal and tee shirt. Free travel, everyone asking about the marathon, swapping war stories with others. The flight home the next day has a bunch of us in the tee shirts, still on a high. And the return home is epic, pop over to the track to show off the medal, and the night out is everything I wished for and more, there's even a special cake for us!!
The high we are on in amazing! Never again? Nah! Super event. Incredibly well organised and support isn't the word to explain what it's like. Oh and you know how usually when they say a race is flat and it's a lie? It's true for this one.